January 1, 2021

The coronavirus epidemic has accelerated the economic crisis faced by newspapers and other local news organizations at the very moment when fact-based, local reporting is most urgently needed. In response, the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School is creating a new fellowship position, beginning in January 2021, that will support investigative journalists and news organizations working at the state and local level. The ideal candidate will have at least two years of relevant litigation experience, an entrepreneurial spirit, an interest in creating new models for providing legal services to reporters, and a familiarity with media law, newsgathering rights, First Amendment law or FOIA.

About the MFIA Clinic

MFIA has a history of successful service to newsrooms and journalists. Founded in 2009, MFIA was the first law school clinic dedicated to defending the rights of newsgatherers and promoting government transparency. It evolved out of the recognition that new technologies were forcing radical changes on the media market and leaving established news organizations in sufficiently precarious financial condition that they could neither afford to pursue the affirmative litigation essential to effective newsgathering nor vigorously fight efforts by governments and others to unmask confidential sources and prevent whistleblowing.

MFIA helps to fill these gaps by providing pro bono legal services to journalists, activists and academics who lack access to the legal service needed to exercise their First Amendment rights and to hold governments accountable. The Clinic advises on prepublication issues, pursues affirmative litigation to compel access to information and to enforce newsgathering rights, and defends against lawsuits seeking to punish newsworthy publications. MFIA also develops and implements litigation strategies and policy initiatives for achieving structural change in the rules governing government transparency and accountability.

Over the past decade, the MFIA Clinic has achieved successes for a wide range of clients, from individual journalists at start-up websites, to such major news organizations as The New York TimesThe Guardian, the Associated Press, and Pro Publica. It has also successfully represented a range of investigative advocacy clients, from individual civil rights activists to international rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Privacy International. The MFIA website provides details about the Clinic’s current caseload.

MFIA is a program of the Floyd Abrams Institute for Freedom of Expression at Yale Law School and is administered by the Yale Information Society Project (ISP). Both the ISP and the Abrams Institute are directed by Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment Jack Balkin. The MFIA Clinic is directed by Abrams Clinical Lecturer and Senior Research Fellow David Schulz, an experienced media litigator who is also Senior Counsel to the Media Practice Group at Ballard Spahr, LLP.

About the Local Journalism Fellowship

Newsroom employment at newspapers continues to plummet – down nearly by half in the last decade. The loss of personnel has had a severe impact on investigative reporting and accountability journalism at the state and local level. Many news organizations no longer pursue the type of reporting that requires the assistance of lawyers during the investigation phase and carries a higher litigation risk after publication. This new fellowship seeks to help address this alarming situation by testing new models for providing journalists and publishers access to pro bono legal services that they currently lack.

The local journalism fellow will supervise student teams dedicated to supporting reporters and editors working at the local, state and regional levels, conduct outreach to journalists and news organizations in Connecticut and surrounding states, and help develop new forms of infrastructure for sharing resources and expertise among law students and media lawyers.

Working with Clinic Director David Schulz and MFIA’s two existing full-time fellows, the local journalism fellow will also:

  • assist the Clinic’s intake process and shape its docket;

  • teach several substantive and skill-based classes to students as part

    of the Clinic’s weekly seminar;

  • supervise summer law student interns at the Clinic and cover Clinic cases during school breaks;

  • engage in the scholarly activities of the ISP, which include regular academic lunches, workshops, conferences, and talks.

    This fellowship provides the opportunity to build a base of experience for a successful career in media law or in clinical legal education. The fellow will gain hands-on experience litigating for reporters and editors, develop an expertise in media and First Amendment law, supervise and teach law students, work on legal scholarship, and participate in the intellectual life of the Yale Law School.

    Conditions of the Fellowship

    MFIA seeks candidates for this position who are admitted to the Bar of at least one U.S. jurisdiction, have at least two years of relevant experience, and wish to pursue a career addressing issues surrounding digital age free expression, in private practice, government service or the legal academy.

    The fellowship is scheduled to begin January 1 and lasts for one year, renewable for a second year. The compensation for the fellowship is $75,000, plus Yale health benefits and access to university facilities. A travel budget is also available for professional and clinical conferences.

    Fellows must live in the New Haven area during their fellowship. However, depending on public health guidelines and Yale Law School policies during the coronavirus pandemic, some or all the fellowship period may involve remote participation and supervision of students.

Application Instructions

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, starting September 15, 2020, and continuing until the position is filled. Applications should include:

  • A one to five-page statement describing the applicant’s interest in the fellowship, relevant practice experience, and career goals;

  • A current resume;

  • A law school transcript; and

  • At least one sample of recent legal writing, preferably a brief or memorandum.

    ***Please indicate clearly that you are applying for the Local Journalism Fellowship***

    Application materials should be sent (in electronic form) to Heather Branch at heather.branch@yale.edu.

    For further information, please feel free to contact MFIA Director David Schulz at david.schulz@yale.edu.

    Yale University considers applicants for employment without regard to, and does not discriminate on the basis of, an individual’s sex, race, color, religion, age, disability, status as a veteran, or national or ethnic origin; nor does Yale discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects people from sex discrimination in educational programs and activities at institutions that receive federal financial assistance. Questions regarding Title IX may be referred to the University’s Title IX Coordinator, at TitleIX@yale.edu, or to the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, 8th Floor, Five Post Office Square, Boston MA 02109-3921. Telephone: 617.289.0111, Fax: 617.289.0150, TDD: 800.877.8339, or Email: ocr.boston@ed.gov.